BOSTON (CBS) – 14-year-old Adam smith of Grafton loves playing online video games. “You can do a lot of stuff. You can run around and craft things. You can fight creatures,” he said. You can even chat with other players.
But Adam got to a point in one game where he wanted more. “Most videogames have a point beyond which you can’t go unless you buy a membership,” he said.
Usually buying a membership to any online site, gaming or otherwise, would require a credit card. For Adam, that would mean asking mom or dad. But this game had a way around that as Adam’s father discovered when he spotted a letter addressed to an internet company in his son’s room. “I shook the envelope and I felt a quarter,” Bradley Smith said.
WBZ TV’s Paula Ebben reports
Inside the envelope was a subscription order for the game along with $11.25 in cash. As it turns out, it was not just a foolish mistake on Adam’s part. The gaming site actually lists cash by mail as a payment option. It was an option that did not sit well with Adam’s dad. “Children, pre-teens and tweens who play these games are going to mail the $20 from grandma and parents won’t know. That’s my biggest concern,” he said.
“I think there is a lot that goes on with children’s gaming that parents aren’t aware of,” explained Dr. Susan Linn who is a child psychologist, author and director of the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood.
Linn believes many of these gaming sites go out of their way to keep parents out of the loop. “We have an industry spending billions of dollars to bypass parents and target children directly with messages that may or may not be good for them,” Linn said.
The game Adam wanted to subscribe to was fairly benign but there are dozens of other gaming sites with violent or sexually explicit material that allow cash payments.
The transactions are all handled through paybycash.com. The site says the service is needed for the millions of Americans who do not have access to a credit card. As a marketing professional, Bradley smith believes there is more to it than that.
“It’s a business decision to solicit money from kids,” Smith said. “I think it’s too tempting for children. They can do this without talking to their parents.”
Sending cash in the mail is not illegal, but it’s not advisable. Even cashbymail.com says it’s not responsible for money that gets lost along the way.